Charlotte Salomon: Life? or Theatre?

March 31, 2011–October 16, 2011


Charlotte Salomon, Gouaches from "Life? or Theatre?," 1940-1942, Villefranche, France. Collection Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam. Copyright Charlotte Salomon Foundation.


Charlotte Salomon, a young Jewish artist from Berlin, worked feverishly between 1940 and 1942 to produce approximately 1300 paintings before she was arrested by the Nazis in 1943, transported to Auschwitz, and killed at the age of 26. The gouaches make up Life? or Theatre?, which through imagery and text tells the slightly fictionalized and theatrically imagined story of Salomon’s family.

The story presented in Life? or Theatre? is doubly tragic. It follows the mounting personal disasters of the self-destructive Salomons (and the artist's attempts to understand and escape them), while also bearing witness to the closing net of the Holocaust in which she was eventually caught. The Contemporary Jewish Museum is the first museum on the West Coast to host this exhibition. It features nearly 300 gouaches from Life? or Theatre? from the collection of the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam.

Press Release


This touring exhibition was organized by the Joods Historisch Museum, Amsterdam, and was specially created by Dr. Sabine Schulze, director at the Hamburger Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, and Edward van Voolen, curator of the Joods Historisch Museum, Amsterdam. All works in the exhibition are from the Joods Historisch Museum, Amsterdam. Copyright holder is the Charlotte Salomon Foundation.

The San Francisco presentation has been made possible by the generous and visionary support of Dorothy R. Saxe; Lydia and Doug Shorenstein; Roselyne Chroman Swig; Laszlo N. Tauber Family Foundation; Jim Joseph Foundation; Phyllis Moldaw; Jewish Community Endowment Holocaust Memorial/Education Fund of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties; and the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany - San Francisco. This project is also supported by several other individuals and public funds from the Netherlands Cultural Services.

The exhibition publication has been made possible by the thoughtful support of the Brill Family Foundation, Karen and Michael Zeff, and Luba Troyanovsky.

The Koret and Taube Foundations are the lead supporters of the 2010 / 2011 exhibition season.

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